It is What it is: Detachment Support

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Detachment is something I have struggled with. A lot. I feel I have mostly defeated my CPTSD from childhood and young adult traumas, but one of the lingering side effects that often gets overlooked is the need for detachment. When you are raised to be so finely in tune with another’s emotions, to the point where you need to predict emotions and reactions from that person for survival, detachment isn’t even something you are aware exists, let alone how essential it is.

Some of us were/have become so tightly intertwined with another that we lose sight of who we are. We casually forget our dreams, what brings us joy, what we need, what we want, and we ignore the other people in our life. We so graciously hand these things over, things we greatly value, so “the one” will see how much we are devoted to them. Some of us don’t realize we gave these things away at all and blindly live in someone else’s world.

Lack of detachment is closely linked with codependency. According to Mental Health America (1), codependency is a learned behavior, typically established in childhood within dysfunctional families. The focus is on one family member: that person’s needs, desires, welfare, health, safety, etc. come before everyone else’s. Codependent people have learned to stay quiet, that love means putting others first, and that what they need and want doesn’t matter. The caretaker role is all consuming, and codependents are driven to control and fix the person, neither of which is possible. Codependency is enabling someone to continue to behave in ways that negatively affect others with no consequences for that behavior.

I avoided the word “codependent” for a long time. It felt weak, victim-like. After all I had been through, the last thing I would see myself as, is a weak victim. It was obvious, though - I chose relationships where I felt I could control situations, with partners who were mentally ill and needed me (or so it seemed - they are all still living and doing their thing years after we parted). Being needed and holding everything together in the middle of chaos gave me confidence in myself, proved my strength to myself, and gave me a sense of purpose. As the cycle of abuse rotated, as it always does, I was faced with the other side of codependency: more trauma, loss of self, coming down from the adrenaline high of “controlled” chaos to reality. What’s a codependent to do? Create more drama to keep that high going. Ouch - I really hate admitting that.

There comes a time when the codependent person cannot take anymore. The constant stress has caused physical illness, emotional duress, or the loss of a treasured friend/family member who won’t watch you continue to put yourself through it any longer. It’s very frustrating to those on the outside as you justify your loved one’s bad behavior time and again, and enable it to continue. You realize the high isn’t worth it anymore, you want off the rollercoaster. You start to detach.

The Collins English Dictionary’s definition of detachment is: “the feeling that you have of not being personally involved in something or of having no emotional interest in it.” Psychologically speaking, it is the avoidance of emotional connections. In its chronic form, being chronically emotionally numb, it is a psychiatric disorder, however we are discussing using detachment for positive self worth benefits. We choose to use this method to cope, whereas those with depersonalization disorder are unable to/completely avoid forming emotional connections.

Emotional detachment can be a positive behavior which allows a person to react calmly to highly emotional circumstances. Emotional detachment in this sense is a decision to avoid engaging emotional connections, rather than an inability or difficulty in doing so, typically for personal, social, or other reasons. In this sense it can allow people to maintain boundaries, psychic integrity and avoid undesired impact by or upon others, related to emotional demands. As such it is a deliberate mental attitude which avoids engaging the emotions of others. ~Wikipedia, emotional detachment (2)

One of the most important things to learn/realize is that you cannot control anyone else. You have zero control over how they act, what they say, how they react, their choices, their consequences. You also have no control over outside circumstances. The ONLY things you have control over are your thoughts, your feelings, how you act, how you react, what you say, and the choices you make. This can be scary for someone who has gone through life with the feeling they were controlling their environment/loved one(s).

Once you realize you were never in control of others, but rather manipulating your environment and ignoring things that didn’t fit your narrative, it becomes easier - freeing even. Knowing I am only responsible for myself allows me to enjoy the company of my friends and family, and sit back and enjoy life as it unravels before me. No more constant fight or flight, no more constant worry. “It is what it is” has been a powerful mantra for me these past few years. It’s basic, and overplayed, but a valuable reminder that life happens whether we scramble around, fruitlessly trying to make it conform, or if we just roll with it and make the best of those good times, knowing the bad times are temporary and there is nothing we can do about them.

To detach is to enable ourselves instead of someone else. Taking personal responsibility for our words and actions is powerful. A lot of people don’t want to look inward and examine personal “flaws” or behaviors that are detrimental to ourselves and our relationships. It goes against everything the ego tries to protect - the good vision we have of ourselves. We subconsciously bury qualities that we see as oppositional to how we view ourselves and therefore ignore the impact they have on our lives. This is Freud’s id and ego, and this is where shadow work comes in, but I’ll save that for another blog.







About the Author: Stacey Jobstmann

Stacey is the Facebook manager and blog editor of U!Shine Vienna. She moved to Lower Austria from California in 2015 to marry the love of her life. She enjoys reading, playing with her dogs, running, and exploring with her family. She treated her PTSD from childhood traumas with a variety of methods, and hopes to support others in their journey. The most helpful to her was EFT (emotional freedom technique), Jung's shadow work, following a morning routine (The Miracle Morning), and following the principles of the Law of Attraction. Her favorite pages/people to follow are Karen Salmansohn, Brene Brown, and Bruce H. Lipton, PhD.